Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Dave Wendricks, president of highly rated Wendricks-White Plumbing in Waukegan, Ill., knows that many homeowners don’t protect their pipes during the cold months.

“There are a lot of common sense things people can do,” Wendrick says. “In extreme conditions, you may need to hire a professional, but [homeowners] can do a lot to prevent problems themselves.”

Kyle Kostelny, president of highly rated Dorenbos Plumbing in Chicago, says it’s important for homeowners to know where pipes are most exposed to cold air. These areas could need repairs if ignored. 

“It’s not likely for unusual areas to freeze,” Kostelny says. “But sometimes the wind can blow just right and it can be cold enough to cause a problem.”

Wendricks says even the simplest of tasks can prevent a $150 to $200 service call to repair neglected frozen piping. He also says he believes a professional plumber should be called to apply heat tape to areas that have been problems in the past.

How to prevent your home’s pipes from freezing this winter

  • Close any crawl spaces before winter. Cold air infiltrates open areas that lead to the home and may freeze the home’s pipes.
  • Open cabinet doors from time to time to let warm air in. This will raise the temperature of nearby pipes.
  • Use a fan to blow warm air from the basement into a connecting crawlspace.
  • Run cold water at a trickle, especially when temperatures are very cold and there isn’t a lot of snow on the ground (snow can act as an insulator). Running water through your pipes will generate heat and prevent freezing.
  • Disconnect any hoses from outside valves.
  • Shut off outside valves on the inside of your home and then open the valve outside to let it drain any remaining water.
  • Find where your pipes are most vulnerable. Learn the layout of your home’s plumbing and where pipes might be exposed to cold air. Pipes are most susceptible when installed in an outside wall.

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Pipes in attics and outside walls are especially vulnerable to freezing. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Bret S.)
Pipes in attics and outside walls are especially vulnerable to freezing. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Bret S.)

Winter has arrived in Washington along with Christmas and New Year's. When you're thinking about staying warm and cozy consider the same for your water pipes.

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Angela

Subject:

Don't forget pipes in the garage. Our garage isn't insulated and we have a rough-in for a water softener. Those pipes are 100% exposed and one burst a year or so ago on an extremely cold night. Fortunately it was a small hole and didn't cause any damage.

George

Subject:

A lot of people don't think of the crawl spaces. Thank you for the reminder

Alan Meeker

Subject:

Never install a heat cable system in a home, only under a mobile home. Heat cables "burn out". Protect the thermal envelope of the home and you'll be OK. Never let the water drip in a mobile home, as the drain lines are typically unprotected. You'll have frozen drains and no where for your water to go (or you either!)

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